and Medical Leave
It had become something of an unwritten tradition for
employers to give employees time off (either paid or unpaid) to
handle family sicknesses, births, adoptions, and medical
emergencies. That is, until the passage of the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Family leave is now mandated under the federal Family and
Medical Leave Act. Only employers with 50 or more employees are
subject to this law. In a nutshell, it requires that covered
employers allow employees to take the equivalent of 12 weeks of
unpaid leave each year due either to a birth or adoption of a
child, or to attend to the serious health condition of an
immediate family member or to the employee's own serious health
What is a serious health condition? A serious health
condition under the FMLA is defined as an illness, injury,
impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves
inpatient care (an overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or
residential medical care facility, including any period of
incapacity or any subsequent treatment in connection with the
inpatient care or continuing care by a health care provider that
includes one or more of the following:
- A period of incapacity of more than three consecutive
- Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or for prenatal
- Any period of incapacity or treatment due to a chronic
serious health condition.
- A period of incapacity that is permanent or long-term due
to a condition for which treatment may not be effective.
- Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments by a
health care provider, including conditions that are not
currently incapacitating but would be if left untreated.
The FMLA also requires that after the 12 weeks of unpaid
leave, you must reinstate the employee in the same job or an
equivalent one. Note that the leave does not have to be taken
all at once; in some instances family leave can be taken one day
at a time.
State law. While the small size of your business may
exclude you from having to comply with federal family leave
laws, a few states have family or medical leave laws that place
requirements on private employers with fewer than 50 employees.
If you are in one of these states, make sure that you understand
and comply with the requirements of your state's family leave
Colorado. Employer who permit maternity or paternity
leaves for biological parents must make such time off available
to adoptive parents.
District of Columbia. The family and medical leave law
applies to any employer who employs 20 or more persons in the
District. An employee is entitled to a total of 16 workweeks of
family leave during any 24-month period for: (1) the birth of a
child of the employee; (2) the placement of a child with the
employee for adoption or foster care; (3) the placement of a
child with the employee for whom the employee permanently
assumes and discharges parental responsibility; or (4) the care
of a family member (including a domestic partner or his or her
dependent child) of the employee who has a serious health
condition. Family leave may consist of unpaid leave, but any
paid family, vacation, personal, or compensatory leave provided
by an employer that the employee elects to use for family leave
counts against the 16 workweeks of allowable family leave.
Employees are also eligible for up to 16 weeks of leave in any
24-month period for their own serious health condition.
Louisiana. Employers of 20 or more employees must
allow an employee up to 40 hours of paid leave to donate bone
Maine. Maine employers (private and public sector) of
25 or more employees are covered by the state family and medical
leave law. Covered employers must provide eligible employees
with unpaid family medical leave of up to 10 consecutive
workweeks in any two years. Leave may be taken for the birth of
a child, the adoption of a child 16 years old or younger, or the
serious illness of the employee or a child, parent, or spouse or
of the employee.
Massachusetts. Employers of six or more employees must
allow employees 24 hours of leave in any 12-month period to
accompany a son, daughter, or elderly relative to medical,
dental, or nursing home interview appointments.
Minnesota. Employers with 21 or more persons at least
one site must permit an employee who is a natural or adoptive
parent to take up to six weeks' leave in connection with the
birth or adoption of a child. An employee may also use personal
sick leave benefits for absences due to illness or injury to the
employee's child on the same terms the employee is able to use
sick leave benefits for the employee's own illness or injury.
Employers with one or more employees must permit up to 40 hours
of paid leave to donate bone marrow.
New York. Employers with 20 or more employees at one
site must permit a leave of up to 24 work hours to donate bone
Oregon. Oregon's family leave law applies only to
employers that employ 25 or more persons in the state. Eligible
employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within any
one-year period. In addition, female employees may take a total
of 12 weeks of leave within any one-year period for an illness,
injury, or condition related to pregnancy or childbirth that
disables the employee from performing any available job duties
offered by the employer. An employee who takes 12 weeks of
family leave within a one-year period for the birth of a child,
adoption of a child under 18, or placement of a foster child
under 18 may also take up to an additional 12 weeks of leave to
care for a child of the employee who, though not suffering from
a serious health condition, has an illness, injury, or condition
that requires home care. Leave may also be taken (1) to care for
a family member with a serious health condition or (2) to
recover from or seek treatment for a serious health condition of
the employee that renders the employee unable to perform at
least one of the essential functions of the employee's regular
position. Employers with one or more employees must allow up to
40 hours of leave to donate bone marrow.
South Carolina. Employers with at least 20 employees
at one site must allow up to 40 hours of paid leave to an
employee donating bone marrow.
Vermont. Vermont's parental leave law covers employers
of 10 and its medical leave law covers employers of 15 or more.
Covered employers must allow eligible employees to take up to 12
weeks during any 12-month period for unpaid parental or medical
leave. Parental leave may be taken following the birth of the
employee's child or within a year following the initial
placement of a child 16 years of age or younger with the
employee for adoption. Medical leave may be taken for the
serious illness of the employee or the serious illness of the
employee's child, stepchild or ward (living with the employee),
foster child, parent, spouse, or parent of the employee's
spouse. Also, employees may take unpaid leave of up to four
hours in any 30-day period or up to 24 hours in any 12-month
period to accompany a child or parent to medical, dental, or
other professional appointments.
Washington. Any employee is entitled to 12 workweeks
of family leave during any 24-month period to: (1) care for a
newborn child or adopted child of the employee who is under the
age of six at the time of placement for adoption; or (2) care
for a child under 18 years old of the employee who has a
terminal health condition. Family leave may be taken on a
reduced leave schedule subject to the approval of the employer.
An employer must allow an employee to use the employee's accrued
sick leave to care for a child of the employee under the age of
18 with a health condition that requires treatment or
Some states require specific benefits for maternity,
adoption, or parental leave situations.
While you may not be large enough to be required to provide
medical or family leave under a state or federal law, you may
choose to give employees some type of leave for these
situations. You may choose to offer employees vacation
time or personal